Thursday, July 5, 2018


     "Dibs" is an odd phenomenon, usually remarked upon during the long Chicago winters. Those parking spaces on residential streets dug out after snowstorms by neighborhood residents, then reserved for their exclusive use by setting out kitchen chairs and sawhorses and other handy objects to mark their claim.
     The logic, as much as there is logic, is they "earned" those spaces by digging out their own cars, through sweat equity. With a hint of threat—anyone who moves the boundary markers and parks in the cleared space does so at their own risk.
     Every heavy snow, TV stations like to show the various hodgepodge dibs markers, and take up the debate anew. A bit of Chicago color.
     Yet dibs are not confined to cold weather. In summer, there are parade route dibs, such as the ephemera set out on Cherry Street in advance of the July 4 parade in Northbrook. Here the claim is more tenuous. There is no work involved, no snow to shovel. This property is often not on a residential block, but, the case of these photos, the public parkway in front of Greenbriar School. Yet if I showed up a half hour before the parade, kicked these chairs aside and set up my own, those who had set them out, sometimes days in advance, would show up and obviously feel ill-used.
   Because their claim was first, I suppose. They got there and mapped out the spot, sort of like getting in a line. You get in line, you can leave and return, provided a friend remains to back up your claim. These lawn chairs and caution tape are place holders. Their reward, not for street cleaning work, but for planning ahead and undergoing a minimum of effort.
     More importantly, society seems to recognize this claim. Dibs could just as easily be seen as selfish and futile—it's certainly the former—and youths would rush to see who could scatter the markers first. 
    But we don't. It is a claim of little consequence, so is respected, this temporary seizure of public space. I live a block from the route, show up as the parade is approaching, my folding chair slung over my arm, and never have trouble finding a clear spot to park myself. 
     But that is not the end of it. 
     For some reason, walking the dog past these markers earlier this week, I thought of the Israeli-Palestinian stand-off.   
     That too, is a matter of claim. The Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, and across the globe, insist they have a right to occupy Israel because they were once there or, rather, their ancestors were, a few generations back. 
     Because of that pre-1948 presence, they believe they have a right to return to land that many have never seen—even "return" is a misnomer, since you can't go back to a place you've never been. 
     That's the half of the puzzle that gets bruited about periodically usually when the Palestinians contrive a protest, or action of some sort that gets a sufficient number of them killed to draw fickle international attention. They fling themselves against the Israeli state, are killed, then the survivors wave the bloody shirt, insist they have been wronged. The world notices, clucks, then moves on with nothing changed.
     This has been going on for half a century.
     As with dibs, society somehow respects the Palestinian claim, to some degree, and the obvious question is "Why?" It can't be they were there "first"—Jews were certainly in the Holy Land too, thousands of years ago. The Palestinian claim isn't enjoyed by other groups. Native Americans controlled the entire continent of North America, 500 years ago, though neither they nor anybody else suggests that, because they were first, they have a right to get the whole thing back. They lost, history moved on. That is usually the case.
     But not with the Palestinians. Part of it has to be that, like parade dibs, it is a claim of little consequence to those giving it support. The far left liberals and college students who turn out passionately for the Palestinian cause have the benefit of something easily-understood to be indignant about, and are required to give up nothing. It isn't their land.
     If you grab those U.S. supporters and ask them what other displaced peoples they support—say, the Kurds—they will just look blankly at you. The Palestinian situation is the only injustice in the world. If you asked what about all the Jews who, for instance, were kicked out of Egypt, Iraq, Iran, etc., in the 1950s, as revenge after the formation of Israel, where Jews had lived for millennia, again the blank stare. When do they get to return to their homes? Who cares? Never. Those situations don't matter. 
    Again, "Why?"
    I think this is where anti-Semitism comes in.  Germany did not believe the Jews who had lived there for centuries belonged there either. Ditto for many other countries. The Jews' homes are always in doubt. The simple solution to any society's problems always seems for the Jews to go somewhere else. We see that today in the United States, with a small but real and growing anti-Semitic presence at the highest levels of government. It would look exaggerated in fiction, but there it is. The hidden solution that's discovered again and again by a certain type—anti-Semitism is philosophy for stupid people. Oh! Look! The answer!
    That's what made the founding of Israel in 1948 so important, such a miracle, a miracle that resonated around the world for a couple decades until, after 1967, the Israelis moved from being the underdog to being the top dog in the area, with the strongest military and the most vibrant country. The Palestinians began to look like victims, and there is a certain sort of squishy heart that automatically goes out to a victim without too much thought of extenuating circumstances. Who never worry that the Palestinians never seem to have a plan, either for thriving in what territory they have or interacting peaceably with the permanent reality of Israel. What they have are dibs on the land of Israel, because someone they knew lived there once. It's a stretch, and yet the Israelis are damned for not respecting it.
     This isn't to say that the 4 million Palestinians in the occupied territories aren't in an awful situation, nor that a solution can't be found, nor that Israel has not mismanaged its control of the territories and shrugged off its responsibility in recent years. All that is true. While most people approach this situation as a 0 or 1, this side or that, Palestinian or Israel, there is plenty of blame to go around. I see no reason to be hard-hearted toward Palestinian suffering. Jews, of all people, should recognize the wrongness of that. The question, "What happens now?" is met with equal silence by both sides (or, more accurately, each offers up its own brand of nonsense, the Palestinians saying "Now we march on Jerusalem," the Israelis saying, "Now we do nothing while nibbling away at Palestinian land.")
     The irony is, the best way for outsiders to help the Palestinians resolve their situation is to withhold the false sympathy they periodically show toward them after their ritual self-immolations make the news. The Palestinian plan—Israelis vanish offstage and the country falls open to them—would be a catastrophe if it actually happened, though that is moot, since it's never going to happen. What is happening is the Israelis are hardening into the same right wing nationalist disease that is afflicting half the world, our country included.
     I should wind this up—weighty musings for some plastic chairs on the side of the road. But claims to the property of others are social constructs, as rule bound and time specific as a minuet or Virginia Reel.  The 70-year claim that the Israeli people and government have on their own nation is only questioned by many because it is a Jewish nation, and denying Jews a place in the world is one of the oldest fall-back positions in history.


  1. I wonder if there was no old testament that Jews would have a claim on that land. Wouldn't you have to be a serious believer that Jews were the first people in the world. Creationists believe the earth was 6000 years old and that man roamed the earth with dinosaurs. According to tradition, the Hebrew calendar started at the time of Creation, placed at 3761 BC. The current (2017/2018) Hebrew year is 5778. I don't know that anyone knows for sure where we all came from. This is hard to believe considering what we know now.

  2. wow! I have absolutely no skin in this game nor do I care.
    in some possibly rare cases people hold deeds to land within Israel but are denied the opportunity to live upon their land because of the group ( religious or ethnic) they belong to. they were not compensated for their property. they left or were forced off due to conflict. but they hold title to the land and are denied access.
    its understandable people who are not involved in this circumstance could sympathize with their plight and possibly not be anti semitic.
    the Israeli Palestinian issue is extremely complex as detailed in the discussions surround the jewish law of return vs. the Palestinian right of return debate.
    I believe that to the victor go the spoils is the appropriate point of view being held by many in this debate and as an American living on the land formerly possessed by indigenous people who you wrongly suggest no-one is advocating for in any way who am I to hold any opinion other than : fuck them, they lost.

    and although they have been partitioned onto reservations they are granted citizenship and allowed to move freely throughout the country and live where ever they choose by the federal government. that can't be said of the Palestinians .

    rationalize anyway you wish but the Palestinians are being screwed by the Israelis,the arabs, muslims, America, as well as screwing themselves

  3. The Palestinian Arabs picked up guns in 1948 and would happily have slaughtered any Jew who came within range of them. As far as I'm concerned, that negates any claim they may have to the moral high ground. Getting beaten up in a fight you willingly participated in doesn't earn any sympathy from me.

  4. Regarding the dibs activity for parade routes, I'm not a fan. Shoveling out a parking space is one thing; setting up dibs material for a close-up view of a "future" event is hardly an earned right IMHO. I am imagining folks getting up at sunrise, or worse, days ahead of time, to reserve their spot. What could this eventually lead to, dibs for (fill in the blank of your choosing)?

    1. The older I get, the less inclined I am to fight for parking spaces and "turf" at free public outdoor events like parades or opera. So now I drag my wife down to the venue a good 3 or 4 hours early, find free on-street parking, and stake my claim. But I don't just throw down coolers and blankets and chairs and walk away somewhere...I OCCUPY the spot I've reserved, and thus I earn my "dibs" through squatter's rights. Then I watch the "empty lots" fill up all around me, much like a suburban pioneer in 1950s Skokie did (I watched that fill up, too).

      After 1967, Israel became Birmingham in my mind. The Israelis were Bull Connor, with his dogs and whips and fire hoses, and worse. Much worse. The Palestinians became what used to be known as "the Negroes"...and for half-a-century, my sympathies have pissed off a lot of my co-religionists. But I have never wavered in the face of their anger. Some have even labeled me a self-hating Jew. Tough.

      Zionists in the Thirties entertained the fantasy of a Jewish homeland in our own Southwest, but FDR nixed that idea pretty quickly. Imagine a Jewish Nevada instead of the Negev, and a Tel Aviv where Las Vegas now stands. With or without the Mob's influence and backing, but probably with. The mind boggles at the thought. A Silver City that might have outshone Los Angeles.

  5. One thing I've always marveled at is how right-wing Israelis (and their U.S. allies) who are so contemptuous of the peace process seem to ignore, or not even know, that Israel owes whatever security it now possesses to peace negotiations. The Camp David agreement removed the threat of Egypt, the only power in the region that could realistically menace Israel (which was why it made Yasser Arafat so hysterically angry--and why Anwar Sadat was murdered). It was Jimmy Carter's great achievement, for which that unfairly maligned man never received enough credit IMO.

  6. Without invention of a time machine or invasion by a powerful alien species, the Israel/Palestine conflict will never be solved. To claim dibs today without going further back than 1948 doesn't address the problem. Palestinians today were alive and living in the areas partitioned and seem to have legitimate claims. Had Jewish migration not been sent into overdrive by Hitler and the Holocaust a mingling of Arabs and Jews may have found a peaceful coexistence. But even the smaller enclaves of 19th century returnees were subjected to pogroms, so Palestinians cannot claim innocence like the New World native tribes. The truth is that Arabs and Jews resided there together long before the current troubles. While there is no evidence of the biblical Exodus, the people of Moses and Abraham did come from Canaan or nearby regions, but so long ago that it is now a chicken vs. egg dilemma. In my perfect world, post WW2 would have provided a Jewish homeland in northwest Germany with good farmland and access to the sea. Considering what Israel has accomplished in less fertile ground it could've been better for all, though not satisfactory to zealots. The impediment to fairness for me is what Israel has made of itself versus the stagnation of modern thought in the Islamic world. We've had that argument by email, Neil, but I still believe that Islam froze non-religious thinking while Judaism held a scattered people together, promoted a strong work ethic and morality, and an ability to get along with other peoples in a peaceful society. So while I am sympathetic to the plight of a Palestinian child, I would advise him to make peace and make a life. Success is the best revenge, they say.


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